Comparisons, #Outlander, and All-That-I-Am-Not

My hands are neither graceful nor fine boned. And, unlike so many others, I cannot seem to find the time or inclination to tend to my cuticles or shape my nails into careful squares, or ovals, or whatever-it-is-that-is-fashionable-right-now…let along actually paint them. I am glad merely to keep them washed and reasonably free of dirt from the garden.

There are days, though, when I am painfully aware of my ragged cuticles. Days when I am self-conscious of the short haircut (self-cut in exasperation at 11:00 p.m., likely with whining kids outside the door…which also explains the strangle tuft that sticks up in the back, both too long and too short to behave).

I am neither blonde nor tan. I am not young. I am not well-endowed. I. Am. Not.

On the I Am Not Days, every comparison is a failure. I am not lovely, or engaging, or wealthy, or privileged. I am not brilliant. I am not the person I thought I would be when I was younger. I’m just not.

I cannot compare myself to others and find much of anything that adds up to the person I want to be, because who I am meant to be has absolutely nothing to do with them and everything to do with me.

My nails are kept purposefully short, because short nails are more practical. And gardeners are nothing if not practical. I would rather dig in the dirt than fret over a manicure because, in my life, having herbs enough to get us through another year trumps fancy fingers. A yard full of flowers and food is far more enticing than those nail wrap things that everyone but me seems to have.

My hair is kept short, because I resent spending time curling, or straightening, or blow drying…and my not-quite-curly-but-certainly-wavy-but-not-in-that-easy-to-manage-way hair would require significant maintenance if kept at a longer length.   I would rather spend my morning writing than fighting the unending war on misbehaving waves.

I am forty three years old. And I own each of those years. I earned them all. Each wrinkle and crease is well-deserved. I spend no time trying to conceal them; I do well to remember to wash my face put on some sort of lotion at night. I’d rather climb in bed with my husband than waste time on creams and potions to preserve some illusion of youth. After all, he is perfectly aware exactly how old I am. It’s not like I am fooling him.

(If you are concerned about Outlander spoilers, stop reading now.)

As I re-re-re-read the Outlander books, I find that I identify so much more with Older Claire. Much more no-nonsense than her younger counterpart, Older Claire has made peace with her graying hair, the broken vein behind her ankle, and the faded stretch marks on her stomach*—in part, of course, because of Jamie’s acceptance and appreciation of these parts of her. Just as he loved her legs—no, not smooth and waxed (exotic though it must have seemed in that place and time), but the unaltered, and downy haired leg that God gave her—Jamie even loved the wee hair that sprouted from her areola.** He loved all of her.

Certainly it is easier to find peace with yourself when you surround yourself with those that love and accept you are you are. Perhaps that is part of the wisdom that comes with age: knowing who to keep close and who to let go. Sometimes it’s hard to know on which side of the divide people fall. Maybe the easiest way to find out is to see how you are reflected in their heart. When I am with those closest to me, I feel funnier, more capable, and more comfortable. When I am with them, I don’t find myself trying to live up to others’ expectations. With them, there are no comparisons.

With them, I am simply Myself.

hand
My decidedly not graceful hand.

* I adore the part where Claire is concerned about her stretch marks and Jamie reveals his own scarred thigh and asks her if the sight of it repulses her. When she says it does not, and he says something like “if your body bears the scars of your own battles” why would it bother him, it is all I can do not to swoon then and there.

** (I recently reread this bit and it still made me smile. It also reminded me of something which Amanda Palmer wrote wherein she describes such stray hairs as “nip-lashes.” Henceforth all references to stray nipple hairs shall be referred to as such. Thank you, Amanda Palmer for providing me with a word I didn’t even know I needed!)

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17 thoughts on “Comparisons, #Outlander, and All-That-I-Am-Not

  1. Awww, Terri 😉 Battle scars, badges of honor from a life lived…precious things, those. My mom and both of my grandma’s are in Heaven already, but when I think of them most often it’s their hands. I feel my Mom’s roughened farm woman hands on my forehead, smoothing my hair (even as an adult) So those are the beauty.

    And yes, older wiser Jamie and Claire. Re-reading Outlander and DIA and even Voyager is good, but mostly I turn to the later books. Identify with them. Enjoy finding Claire truly and completely coming to realize how much she loves Jamie and how precious and fragile and short life is…A very sweet post from you today, my friend!

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  2. I am so thankful for my hands, spots and wrinkles and everything for all they help me do just like you. I, too, never seem to have manicured nails and cuticles!?!? If I can rub lotion in at night before bed, I am doing well.

    Though Voyager is my favorite of the series, I agree that the later books are more relatable for me at age 62. They speak of a continuous loving relationship and changes to the family over time. They do bring tears to my eyes in realizing how short the time we have on this earth.

    Thank you as always for a lovely bit of writing to brighten the day.

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  3. I do love your reflective posts. Well done for being completely accepting of yourself at age 43. I think it has taken me quite a few years longer to realise this. I obviously have not re- re – read the Outlqnder books as many times as you have😀 as I do not recall mention of a hair near clare’s aureola. Could you please refreah me as to the context in which this occurs and which novel?

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    • Ok, so my Kindle shows it as page 74 of Dragonfly in Amber. *SPOILERS* They are in France and Claire is pregnant. Jamie is admiring the changes to her pregnant body:

      “God, they’re so lovely,” he murmured, repeating the process on the other side. He cupped both breasts, admiring them. “They’re heavier,” he said, “just a bit. And the nipples are darker, too.” One forefinger traced the springing curve of a single fine hair that rose near the dark areola, silver in the frosted light of the morning.

      I never really noticed that bit the first few times I read it, but for some reason I did notice it this time and it made me think about accepting our bodies more, and how being accepted makes it so much easier to accept ourselves….

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  4. My Mother was burned over eighty three percent of her body at age six. Her hands were burned when she covered her face. And yet those hands cared for hundreds of mental patients who had no one but her to see that they weren’t forgotten. She arranged trips to Zoo’s, Museums, Plays and planned Parties. She made sure every patient had a Christmas Present. They called her the party lady and she had the most beautiful hands I ever saw.

    I love your writing, I find laughter and tears in your words. There is one thing I want you to know. Your words tell a great deal about you and I see someone who is beautiful in all the ways it matters.

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    • I woke up to your lovely words this morning and they filled me with such…joy, peace, admiration…? Well, they filled me with Such. When I notice my hands today, I will hold your mother in my heart. ❤️

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  5. Another lovely post! Hands…I’ve looked at mine often and felt “I. Am. Not.” My hands are almost exact replicas of my mother’s and my daughter’s are almost exact replicas of mine. We have little hands with short, pudgy fingers. My fingernails grow so quickly and so hard that I keep them long just because they are a pain to keep short! They are the place where I notice my age almost more than any other feature. At almost 52 I’m developing some prominent veins, crepe-y skin and a recently acquired “age” spot! Sometimes I’m not as philosophical as i’d like to be about getting older, but I do think the wisdom of not wasting precious time on things we can’t stop/change does come with the territory! My age has almost paralleled Claire’s across the books. I was only a year or two older than Claire when I read OL back in 1992! In those days it was all about the adventure of the romance! Now, I definitely have a greater affinity for the later books. The Claire and Jamie of the last chapters of MOBY are in my head and heart space! I figure about the time Diana finishes the next installment, I’ll have caught up with Claire again. It’ll be interesting to see what my hands look like then! I think I’ll find a reason to hold hands with my mother and daughter this weekend! Also, ‘nip-lashes’… my new favorite term!!

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  6. ” Perhaps that is part of the wisdom that comes with age: knowing who to keep close and who to let go. Sometimes it’s hard to know on which side of the divide people fall. Maybe the easiest way to find out is to see how you are reflected in their heart.” So true. This is a wrenching lesson to learn, but a valuable one.

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  7. Do not worry! When I was younger, I used to have my nails done. I used to colour them myself. Nowadays my two boys keep me so busy and I do a lot of things at home such as cooking for them, so it is not worth keeping my nails nice. I might be physically endowed (young looks and lean physique for my age). However, I bear the scars of surgery (especially a small cut in one of my breast due to an operation when I was 17). I was concerned back then about having it. Of course, I was so insecure at that age. I realized years later after meeting my husband (then boyfriend) that having a scar in that area of the body is not a big deal. People appreciate more what is inside than the physical image. At the same time, physical beauty does not really fade – it changes. Old people can also be very attractive (and that includes women). In regards to the hair in the nipples, I used to have three nasty ones there. They really bothered me to the point that I bought a laser machine to be used at home to get rid of them. I do not have them anymore. However, I do have now and then a thick but extremely short hair that grows on my chin (like a witch’s hair). I cannot get rid of it at all.

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    • The thing about beauty is that often I’ve found that I can meet someone very attractive and if they are unkind their attractiveness is severely diminished…but a kind soul can make a plain face shine like the sun. So much of beauty truly does come from within.

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